DJ Timbuck2: Inside the DJ Booth
Timbuck2 keeps himself in the mix; he doesn’t need a co-sign. The Chicago-based DJ has always taken pride in creating new avenues and being self-sufficient. It’s a lesson he learned early.
“As far as everything I’ve done with my life and my career, I’ve never had no help from nobody,” he tells The BoomBox. “The person that put me on — my predecessor — was the No. 1 cat in the city and he didn’t do shit for me because he wanted me to do it for myself.”
At the age of 9, Timbuck2 invested in his first piece of vinyl, Rick Holmes’ funkadelic jam “Remember to Remember.” By the time he turned 13, he was paying close attention to his older brother, who’d been spinning for awhile. Above all else, Tim says hip-hop was the main inspiration and deejaying was all he ever wanted to do.
Since buying that first record, Timbuck2 has become one of the Windy City’s most respected DJs. He took stock in himself nearly 18 years ago and is still watching it pay off. His confidence comes from watching Chi-town’s finest at work.
“It’s a lot of legendary and talented DJs in my opinion,” he shares. “Some of the best DJs in the world are from here. I had the pleasure of watching and learning from Twilite Tone, DJ Pharris, DJ 33 1/3. A super array of house DJs… There’s a very eclectic mix in Chicago.”
In 2004, Tim was enjoying a rare night off at home when his phone rang — that call changed the direction of fledgling career.
“I was on my couch watching ‘The Simpsons’ and my phone rang,” he reveals. “It was [WGCI Chicago's Music Director and Asst. Program Director] Tiffany Green and [WGCI's Program Director] Elroy Smith calling me on three-way.
“They asked me previous times [if I wanted to do radio] and I said, ‘No.’ So they asked again, ‘Would you be interested in doing mix shows on the radio?’ I told them to hold on, and thought about it like, ‘Man, what the hell do I have to lose? If I don’t like it I can just quit.’”
He’s been on the air since but admits, he “hated it at first.”
Before that phone call, Timbuck2 truly had no interest in mixing on the radio. The idea was unappealing. “I thought radio was corny and that’s the God honest truth,” Tim says. “I’ve been on radio for nine years now.”
Before that fateful call, he’d been building his brand under the radar. Tim had been spinning at parties since house and disco dominated the Chicago club set. But WGCI changed everything.
Not long after joining the staff for the traffic hour mix on weekdays, he was granted his own mixshow on Saturdays. “It’s a show that I built designed to help independent artists,” the member of the Heavy Hitters DJ Collective states. “In Chicago, no one ever played Chicago music on the radio and if they did they were the records that people were paying to play, so they were wack.”
Although many Chicago natives lament over the perceived lack of hometown support, Timbuck2 doesn’t believe that it takes leaving the city in order to succeed. He doesn’t mince words deconstructing the stigma.
“That’s what losers say,” he spits contemptuously. “That’s some bullshit. That’s not true. That’s just always what people in Chicago have said when it comes to hip-hop. This is the mindset in Chicago: Everyone in Chicago wants you to do everything for them. There’s a serious lack of grind here. A serious lack of grind.
“Like, ‘I think I’m hot and my 10 friends think I’m hot. You should think I’m hot and you should do something for me.’ Versus you putting down all the legwork. It’s hard for artists. I know this for a fact because that’s my job to work with artists, that’s what I do, but it’s not necessarily true. It’s not that hard. I mean look at how many people have done it.
“It’s all about timing. It’s all about your talent. Not only that, it’s like, ‘Damn! You might not be that good. Maybe that’s why you ain’t got signed.’ A lot of people be like, ‘Why? Why? Why?’ And it’s like, ‘N—-. Stop asking ‘Why?’ and make some better music. Maybe that’s the problem.”
Timbuck2 is the product of innovative thinking and a relentless work ethic. Besides spinning on WGCI six days a week, the DJ hosts mixtapes, tours with major rap stars and travels the world on his own mission for success. Tim still does some mixing for the club scene. There was one time he remembers shutting the party down in the worst way.
“Once I was deejaying and literally the table I was using to spin, it collapsed,” he recalls. “Like, folded to the ground like laundry. Right in front of me. With 2,000 people in front of me, my table was on the floor and my hands are still in the air like I’m scratching.
“Everybody just turned around to look at me and I just shrugged like, ‘Man, what can I do? You see what’s going on here, nothing I can do.’”
On a positive note, the mixer will share a stage with Lupe Fiasco in the coming months for the his Food & Liquor 2 tour. Tim is also currently planning his own stint, spinning through Canada. “Just having the opportunity to tour with Kanye and Lupe as a DJ and Common… ,” he adds. “People from Chicago that I grew up with and respect, that I’m friends with. Being able to travel the world with them is pretty damn cool.”
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